HOUSTON — Several school districts across Texas -- including some in the Houston area -- are issuing mask mandates in defiance of Governor Greg Abbott's order banning them.
The state is threatening to sue the districts and Attorney General Ken Paxton told a radio station the legislature might vote to cut their funding.
Expecting pushback from politicians, the districts insist the health of students and staff is their main priority.
Here's a list of the large districts with mandates as of August 13.
HISD in Houston
In an interview with KHOU 11 earlier this week, Superintendent Millard House said he has the utmost respect for Gov. Greg Abbott, but the health and safety of the community and schools are why there will be a mask mandate in Houston's public schools.
When House was asked if he's afraid of retaliation or ramifications from the implementation of the mandate, he didn't seem concerned.
"You know, we’re in the midst of a pandemic," House said. "I don’t see retaliation as a method that anyone looks to use, quite frankly.”
“I don’t want to focus so much on defying the governor. We are ensuring that our kids are safe. We’re ensuring that our teachers are safe. And we’re ensuring the learning needs for each student is met," Superintendent Dr. Rodney Watson said.
The district will also send out a survey to see how parents feel about a potential remote learning option for students.
Dec. 6 update: Aldine ISD announced it will no longer require masks when students and staff return from the holiday break. The mask mandate will officially be lifted on Monday, Jan. 3.
Aldine ISD is mandating that all staff, students, and visitors wear a mask on all of the district's buses and when visiting campuses and administrative buildings. This is effective, Monday, August 16.
Galena Park ISD
Galena Park ISD says masks must be worn by all students and staff while indoors on school property and school buses, effective immediately.
"When you see the science, when you see the data, and then you apply that to your local context," she said. "Austin is my community now, and so when I see and I hear that there are no more ICU beds and I haven't put students into classrooms yet, and I'm going to put students in classrooms with teachers, with staff members, and we know that masking is one of the most effective COVID protocols other than vaccination, and I'm not able to do that, really required me to ask myself: Why are you the superintendent?"
As cases continue to rise in Dallas County and the health department moved the risk level to red, DISD Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa issued a mask mandate "temporarily," citing an "urgent crisis."
"I'd rather take that consequence than have the health of students and staff and families on my mind," Hinojosa told WFAA, our sister station in Dallas. "If I need to be held accountable, if I need to pay a fine, I'll do what I need to do."
Dallas ISD says the governor's order "does not limit the district’s rights as an employer and educational institution to establish reasonable and necessary safety rules for its staff and students."
Fort Worth ISD
Before Fort Worth school superintendent Kent Scribner decided to require masks, he received a letter from healthcare workers who've seen the COVID-19 surge firsthand: Dozens of pediatricians from Cook Children's Medical Center.
They strongly encouraged masking for students and staff, citing guidance from the CDC and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics, according to WFAA reporter Ryan Osborne.
"The rapid increases in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths locally and throughout the US in recent weeks are alarming and require an appropriate response," the letter said.
San Antonio districts
In San Antonio, the Bexar County Health Authority issued a directive that masks be worn at all public schools after they were granted a temporary restraining order on Abbott's executive order.
KENS 5, our sister station in San Antonio, reports the following school districts will now require masks.
- San Antonio ISD
- North East ISD
- Edgewood ISD
- Harlandale ISD
- Alamo Heights ISD
IDEA Public Schools
Beginning Friday, August 13, IDEA Public Schools will require students, staff and visitors to all K-12 schools in Harris County— vaccinated or unvaccinated — to wear masks indoors.